African Rite

African Rite

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Encyclopedia
In the history of Christianity
History of Christianity
The history of Christianity concerns the Christian religion, its followers and the Church with its various denominations, from the first century to the present. Christianity was founded in the 1st century by the followers of Jesus of Nazareth who they believed to be the Christ or chosen one of God...

, the African Rite refers to a now defunct Catholic
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

, Western liturgical
Liturgy
Liturgy is either the customary public worship done by a specific religious group, according to its particular traditions or a more precise term that distinguishes between those religious groups who believe their ritual requires the "people" to do the "work" of responding to the priest, and those...

 rite
Rite
A rite is an established, ceremonious, usually religious act. Rites in this sense fall into three major categories:* rites of passage, generally changing an individual's social status, such as marriage, baptism, or graduation....

, and is considered a development or possibly a local use of the primitive Roman Rite
Roman Rite
The Roman Rite is the liturgical rite used in the Diocese of Rome in the Catholic Church. It is by far the most widespread of the Latin liturgical rites used within the Western or Latin autonomous particular Church, the particular Church that itself is also called the Latin Rite, and that is one of...

. It used the Latin language.

The African Rite may be considered in two different periods:
  • The ante-Nicene
    Nicene Creed
    The Nicene Creed is the creed or profession of faith that is most widely used in Christian liturgy. It is called Nicene because, in its original form, it was adopted in the city of Nicaea by the first ecumenical council, which met there in the year 325.The Nicene Creed has been normative to the...

     period
    when Christians were persecuted and could not freely develop forms of public worship, and when the liturgical prayers and acts had not become fixed.
  • The post-Nicene period when the simple, improvised forms of prayer gave way to more elaborate, set formularies, and the primitive liturgical actions evolved into grand and formal ceremonies.

Background


The African liturgy
Liturgy
Liturgy is either the customary public worship done by a specific religious group, according to its particular traditions or a more precise term that distinguishes between those religious groups who believe their ritual requires the "people" to do the "work" of responding to the priest, and those...

 was in use not only in the old Roman province of Africa
Africa Province
The Roman province of Africa was established after the Romans defeated Carthage in the Third Punic War. It roughly comprised the territory of present-day northern Tunisia, and the small Mediterranean coast of modern-day western Libya along the Syrtis Minor...

 of which Carthage
Carthage
Carthage , implying it was a 'new Tyre') is a major urban centre that has existed for nearly 3,000 years on the Gulf of Tunis, developing from a Phoenician colony of the 1st millennium BC...

 was the capital, but also in Numidia
Numidia
Numidia was an ancient Berber kingdom in part of present-day Eastern Algeria and Western Tunisia in North Africa. It is known today as the Chawi-land, the land of the Chawi people , the direct descendants of the historical Numidians or the Massyles The kingdom began as a sovereign state and later...

 and Mauretania
Mauretania
Mauretania is a part of the historical Ancient Libyan land in North Africa. It corresponds to present day Morocco and a part of western Algeria...

 -- in fact, in all of Northern Africa from the borders of Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 west to the Atlantic Ocean
Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's oceanic divisions. With a total area of about , it covers approximately 20% of the Earth's surface and about 26% of its water surface area...

.
Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 was introduced into proconsular Africa in the latter half of the 2nd century AD, probably by missionaries
Missionary
A missionary is a member of a religious group sent into an area to do evangelism or ministries of service, such as education, literacy, social justice, health care and economic development. The word "mission" originates from 1598 when the Jesuits sent members abroad, derived from the Latin...

 from Rome
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

, and then spread rapidly through the other African provinces.

Although the language of the African Rite was Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

, it was modified by the introduction of many classical "Africanisms
Africanisms
Africanisms refers to characteristics of African culture and people that can be traced through societal practices and institutions of the African diaspora....

". Since it had been in use for at least more than a century before the Roman Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 changed its official liturgical language from Koine Greek
Koine Greek
Koine Greek is the universal dialect of the Greek language spoken throughout post-Classical antiquity , developing from the Attic dialect, with admixture of elements especially from Ionic....

 to the Latin idiom, it is probably the oldest Latin liturgical rite
Latin liturgical rites
Latin liturgical rites used within that area of the Catholic Church where the Latin language once dominated were for many centuries no less numerous than the liturgical rites of the Eastern autonomous particular Churches. Their number is now much reduced...

.

Since the African Church was dependent upon the bishopric of Rome, and since there was constant communication between Africa and Rome concerning ecclesiastical affairs, it may be supposed that liturgical questions were raised, different customs discussed, and the customs or formulas of one church adopted by the other.

A study of the African liturgy might thus be useful in tracing the origin and development of the different Latin liturgical rites
Latin liturgical rites
Latin liturgical rites used within that area of the Catholic Church where the Latin language once dominated were for many centuries no less numerous than the liturgical rites of the Eastern autonomous particular Churches. Their number is now much reduced...

, and to determine how one rite influenced (often enriched) another. The African liturgy seems to have influenced the Mozarabic and Gallican liturgies—similarities in phraseology show a common antique origin or a mutual dependence of the liturgies (possibly Antioch
Antioch
Antioch on the Orontes was an ancient city on the eastern side of the Orontes River. It is near the modern city of Antakya, Turkey.Founded near the end of the 4th century BC by Seleucus I Nicator, one of Alexander the Great's generals, Antioch eventually rivaled Alexandria as the chief city of the...

ene and Coptic
Coptic language
Coptic or Coptic Egyptian is the current stage of the Egyptian language, a northern Afro-Asiatic language spoken in Egypt until at least the 17th century. Egyptian began to be written using the Greek alphabet in the 1st century...

).

Ante-Nicene period


No liturgical codices are extant - these were all lost due to the destruction of the Islamic invasion and due to the relatively rural character of the African regions, making the reconstruction of the ancient African liturgy difficult. Quotations and references from liturgical book
Liturgical book
A liturgical book is a book published by the authority of a church, that contains the text and directions for the liturgy of its official religious services.-Roman Catholic:...

s and ceremonies are rare in the works of the early ecclesiastical writers and councils.

However, various sources illuminate customs which were peculiar to the African Church, as well as what formularies and ceremonies were common to all the Western churches:
  • Two writers -- Tertullian
    Tertullian
    Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, anglicised as Tertullian , was a prolific early Christian author from Carthage in the Roman province of Africa. He is the first Christian author to produce an extensive corpus of Latin Christian literature. He also was a notable early Christian apologist and...

     and St. Cyprian -- furnish useful information on the African liturgy. Tertullian's writings are especially rich in descriptions of, and allusions to, ecclesiastical customs.
  • The acts of the early martyrs, for example Saints Perpetua and Felicitas
    Saints Perpetua and Felicitas
    Perpetua and Felicity are Christian martyrs of the 3rd century. Perpetua was a 22-year old married noble, and a nursing mother. Her co-martyr Felicity, an expectant mother, was her slave. They suffered together at Carthage in the Roman province of Africa.The Passion of St. Perpetua, St...

    , are also illustrative.
  • Finally, inscriptions on Christian (graveyard) monuments provide evidence on the beliefs and practices of the time.

Prayers


Christians' prayers were either private or liturgical. Privately they prayed every morning and evening, and many of them prayed frequently during the day—for example, at the third, sixth, and ninth hours, before meals, and before undertaking any unusual work or enterprise. The liturgical prayers were said chiefly during the reunions of the faithful to observe the vigils
Vigils
Vigils is a term for night prayer in ancient Christianity. See Vespers, Compline, Nocturns, Matins, and Lauds for more information. A Vigil is a night spent in prayer....

, or to celebrate the Agape feast
Agape feast
The term Agape or Love feast was used of certain religious meals among early Christians that seem originally to have been closely related to the Eucharist...

 and the Holy Eucharist
Eucharist
The Eucharist , also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance...

 (Mass
Mass (liturgy)
"Mass" is one of the names by which the sacrament of the Eucharist is called in the Roman Catholic Church: others are "Eucharist", the "Lord's Supper", the "Breaking of Bread", the "Eucharistic assembly ", the "memorial of the Lord's Passion and Resurrection", the "Holy Sacrifice", the "Holy and...

).

These Christian assemblies in Africa seem to have been modelled on the same plans as those in other countries. To a certain degree, they imitated the Word services of the Jewish synagogue (including the solemn chanting of the lectures), adding to it the Eucharistic service and some institutions specific to Christianity.

These gatherings were characterized by three elements: psalmody, the reading of passages from the Old and New Testaments, and prayer, to which a homily
Homily
A homily is a commentary that follows a reading of scripture. In Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and Eastern Orthodox Churches, a homily is usually given during Mass at the end of the Liturgy of the Word...

 on the Scripture was generally added by the deacon
Deacon
Deacon is a ministry in the Christian Church that is generally associated with service of some kind, but which varies among theological and denominational traditions...

, priest
Priest
A priest is a person authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particular, rites of sacrifice to, and propitiation of, a deity or deities...

 or bishop
Bishop
A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

. Such meetings were sometimes distinct from the Mass, but sometimes they formed a preparation for the celebration of the divine mysteries
Sacraments of the Catholic Church
The Sacraments of the Catholic Church are, the Roman Catholic Church teaches, "efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us. The visible rites by which the sacraments are celebrated signify and make present the graces proper...

.

The Church priest
Priest
A priest is a person authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particular, rites of sacrifice to, and propitiation of, a deity or deities...

s presided over the assembly, instructions and exhortations were given, prayers recited for the needs of the Church, the necessities of the brethren were considered and provided for, and various business pertaining to the Christian community was transacted, and finally, the Agape feast
Agape feast
The term Agape or Love feast was used of certain religious meals among early Christians that seem originally to have been closely related to the Eucharist...

 was probably - until entirely disappearing in the early 3rd century - celebrated as a fitting conclusion to a reunion of Christ's followers. The Agape feast
Agape feast
The term Agape or Love feast was used of certain religious meals among early Christians that seem originally to have been closely related to the Eucharist...

 seems to have been celebrated in Africa in the same manner as in other countries, and to have degenerated into an abuse to be suppressed here, as well as elsewhere. (Already the Apostle Paul condemned its abuses; these condemnations led to this custom to be suppressed by the apostolic Church or their immediate early successors.)

These liturgical meetings generally took place at night, or just before dawn, and hence Tertullian
Tertullian
Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, anglicised as Tertullian , was a prolific early Christian author from Carthage in the Roman province of Africa. He is the first Christian author to produce an extensive corpus of Latin Christian literature. He also was a notable early Christian apologist and...

 speaks of such an assembly as a coetus antelucanus, a "meeting before the dawn" (Apol., ii), while others speak of it as a vigil
Vigil
A vigil is a period of purposeful sleeplessness, an occasion for devotional watching, or an observance...

. The hour may have been chosen to enable Christians to evade their heathen persecutors, or to commemorate the time of the resurrection of Jesus
Death and Resurrection of Jesus
The Christian belief in the resurrection of Jesus states that Jesus returned to bodily life on the third day following his death by crucifixion. It is a key element of Christian faith and theology and part of the Nicene Creed: "On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures"...

.

The Christian liturgy, in a strict sense of the word, is the celebration of the Eucharist - involving unbloody sacrifice
Sacrifice
Sacrifice is the offering of food, objects or the lives of animals or people to God or the gods as an act of propitiation or worship.While sacrifice often implies ritual killing, the term offering can be used for bloodless sacrifices of cereal food or artifacts...

 and a consummation. This generally followed the long prayers of a vigil. Traces of the ancient vigils survive in similarities with the preparatory part of today's Mass
Mass (liturgy)
"Mass" is one of the names by which the sacrament of the Eucharist is called in the Roman Catholic Church: others are "Eucharist", the "Lord's Supper", the "Breaking of Bread", the "Eucharistic assembly ", the "memorial of the Lord's Passion and Resurrection", the "Holy Sacrifice", the "Holy and...

, or perhaps even more clearly in the first part of the Masses for the Ember days
Ember days
In the liturgical calendar of the Western Christian churches, Ember days are four separate sets of three days within the same week — specifically, the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday — roughly equidistant in the circuit of the year, that were formerly set aside for fasting and prayer...

, or the Mass of the Pre-sanctified on Good Friday
Good Friday
Good Friday , is a religious holiday observed primarily by Christians commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death at Calvary. The holiday is observed during Holy Week as part of the Paschal Triduum on the Friday preceding Easter Sunday, and may coincide with the Jewish observance of...

. Thus the Eucharist was celebrated very early in the morning ordinarily, and the regular day chosen for assisting at the Eucharist was on the - sacred - Sunday, in commemoration of the resurrection of Jesus
Death and Resurrection of Jesus
The Christian belief in the resurrection of Jesus states that Jesus returned to bodily life on the third day following his death by crucifixion. It is a key element of Christian faith and theology and part of the Nicene Creed: "On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures"...

.

Sabbath and feast days


The Sabbath, in the Jewish sense, was not observed by Christians during this early period. The Jewish festivals were also abandoned, as Tertullian (De idolatria, xiv) writes of the observance of festivals by Christians, "to whom Sabbaths are strange, and the new-moons and festivals formerly beloved by God". Sunday was now the Lord's day of the New Covenant
New Covenant
The New Covenant is a concept originally derived from the Hebrew Bible. The term "New Covenant" is used in the Bible to refer to an epochal relationship of restoration and peace following a period of trial and judgment...

, a day of rejoicing, on which it was forbidden to fast and to pray in a kneeling (penitential) posture: "We count fasting or kneeling in worship on the Lord's day to be unlawful". (Tert., De corona, iii.)

Since the resurrection of Jesus
Death and Resurrection of Jesus
The Christian belief in the resurrection of Jesus states that Jesus returned to bodily life on the third day following his death by crucifixion. It is a key element of Christian faith and theology and part of the Nicene Creed: "On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures"...

 was honored on Sunday, it was only natural that Friday was considered appropriate for commemorating the passion
Passion (Christianity)
The Passion is the Christian theological term used for the events and suffering – physical, spiritual, and mental – of Jesus in the hours before and including his trial and execution by crucifixion...

 and death of Christ. Hence the early Christians met for prayer on Friday, which was marked for meat abstinence and fasting
Fasting
Fasting is primarily the act of willingly abstaining from some or all food, drink, or both, for a period of time. An absolute fast is normally defined as abstinence from all food and liquid for a defined period, usually a single day , or several days. Other fasts may be only partially restrictive,...

 in other Christian writings (Didache, Syria).

Christians also gathered on Wednesdays, but its origin as a meeting day cannot be accounted for. Tertullian referred to the Wednesday and Friday meetings as stations (stationes). In Africa, it appears to have been customary to celebrate the Eucharist on station days, although it does not seem to have been the practice in other churches. However, these were days of fasting in churches everywhere. Since fasting lasted only until the ninth hour, the liturgy would be celebrated and communion distributed about that time in the afternoon.

Of all Sundays, the feast of Easter
Easter
Easter is the central feast in the Christian liturgical year. According to the Canonical gospels, Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion. His resurrection is celebrated on Easter Day or Easter Sunday...

 was the greatest and was celebrated with special solemnity. Good Friday
Good Friday
Good Friday , is a religious holiday observed primarily by Christians commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death at Calvary. The holiday is observed during Holy Week as part of the Paschal Triduum on the Friday preceding Easter Sunday, and may coincide with the Jewish observance of...

, called by Tertullian "Pascha", was a day of strict fasting which continued through Holy Saturday
Holy Saturday
Holy Saturday , sometimes known as Easter Eve or Black Saturday, is the day after Good Friday. It is the day before Easter and the last day of Holy Week in which Christians prepare for Easter...

. Even though Good Friday was a preparation for the feast of Easter, it was the most solemn vigil
Vigil
A vigil is a period of purposeful sleeplessness, an occasion for devotional watching, or an observance...

 during the year, and the one on which all vigils were modelled.

Holy Saturday
Holy Saturday
Holy Saturday , sometimes known as Easter Eve or Black Saturday, is the day after Good Friday. It is the day before Easter and the last day of Holy Week in which Christians prepare for Easter...

 does not seem to have had any special liturgical service assigned, the present service being the ancient Easter vigil anticipated. The Easter vigil may have been so solemnly observed because of the traditional belief that Jesus would return to judge the world on the feast of Easter, and early Christians hoped He would find them vigilant, prepared and praying. The parousia
Parousia
Parousia is an ancient Greek word meaning presence, arrival, or official visit.-Classical usage:# Physical presence, arrival – The main use is the physical presence of a person, which where that person is not already present refers to the prospect of the physical arrival of that person, especially...

n beliefs of early Christians, awaiting a very near return of their Lord, inspired these vigils.

Easter in Tertullian's time was followed by fifty days of rejoicing until Pentecost
Pentecost
Pentecost is a prominent feast in the calendar of Ancient Israel celebrating the giving of the Law on Sinai, and also later in the Christian liturgical year commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of Christ after the Resurrection of Jesus...

 (gift of the Holy Ghost), which was considered the close of the Easter season rather than a solemn feast with a special significance.

In the 3rd century (200-300 AD), Lent
Lent
In the Christian tradition, Lent is the period of the liturgical year from Ash Wednesday to Easter. The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer – through prayer, repentance, almsgiving and self-denial – for the annual commemoration during Holy Week of the Death and...

, as a period of forty days fasting, was unknown in Africa. Of the greater feasts of the liturgical year
Liturgical year
The liturgical year, also known as the church year, consists of the cycle of liturgical seasons in Christian churches which determines when feast days, including celebrations of saints, are to be observed, and which portions of Scripture are to be read. Distinct liturgical colours may appear in...

, the earlier writers appear to know nothing -- Christmas
Christmas
Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...

 (Nativity), the Circumcision of Jesus
Circumcision of Jesus
The Circumcision of Jesus is an event from the life of Jesus of Nazareth according to the Gospel of Luke, which states in verse 2:21 that Jesus was circumcised eight days after his birth...

, the Epiphany
Epiphany (Christian)
Epiphany, or Theophany, meaning "vision of God",...

, the festivals of the Blessed Virgin and the feasts of the Apostles do not seem to have been celebrated in the African Church, or at least not with special solemnity.

Festivals of local Christian martyrs seem to have taken precedence over what are now regarded as the greatest feasts of the Church, and their anniversaries were celebrated with great solemnity long before the immovable feasts were introduced. Only at a much later date were commemorations of foreign saints made. The early Christians had a great devotion towards the martyr
Martyr
A martyr is somebody who suffers persecution and death for refusing to renounce, or accept, a belief or cause, usually religious.-Meaning:...

s and confessor
Confessor
-Confessor of the Faith:Its oldest use is to indicate a saint who has suffered persecution and torture for the faith, but not to the point of death. The term is still used in this way in the East. In Latin Christianity it has come to signify any saint, as well as those who have been declared...

s of the Christian faith, carefully preserved and venerated
Veneration
Veneration , or veneration of saints, is a special act of honoring a saint: an angel, or a dead person who has been identified by a church committee as singular in the traditions of the religion. It is practiced by the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic, and Eastern Catholic Churches...

 their relics, made pilgrimages to their tombs, and sought to be buried as near as possible to the relic
Relic
In religion, a relic is a part of the body of a saint or a venerated person, or else another type of ancient religious object, carefully preserved for purposes of veneration or as a tangible memorial...

s of the martyrs. Thus the calendar
Calendar of saints
The calendar of saints is a traditional Christian method of organizing a liturgical year by associating each day with one or more saints and referring to the feast day of said saint...

 of the African Church in the ante-Nicene period contained a comparatively small number of feast days.

The Eucharist


The most important liturgical function is the celebration of Mass
Eucharist (Catholic Church)
"At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood."...

, or the Eucharist. The African Church seems to have divided the Mass into the Mass of the catechumens, and the Mass of the faithful. Among the orthodox Christians, the catechumens were rigidly excluded from assisting at the propitiatory sacrifice of the Eucharist (Mass of the faithful).

Bread and wine were - and are - used as the matter of the sacrament, but a little water was already in early times added to the wine to signify the union of the people with Christ. St. Cyprian
Cyprian
Cyprian was bishop of Carthage and an important Early Christian writer, many of whose Latin works are extant. He was born around the beginning of the 3rd century in North Africa, perhaps at Carthage, where he received a classical education...

 severely condemned bishops who used only water in the chalice, declaring that water is not the essential matter of the sacrifice and its exclusive use renders the sacrament invalid.

Both Tertullian's and St. Cyprian's writings have passages which seem to give the form of the Eucharist in the very words of Christ as quoted in Sacred Scripture. Sometimes there is great similarity between the African Rite's words and the phraseology of the still existing and still used Roman Canon
Text and rubrics of the Roman Canon
Before the 1970 revision of the Roman Missal, the Mass had, in the Roman Rite, only one Anaphora or Eucharistic Prayer, which was referred to as the Canon of the Mass. Since the 1970 revision, which made only minimal changes in the text, but somewhat more important changes in the rubrics, it is...

. There are allusions to a Preface, the Sanctus
Sanctus
The Sanctus is a hymn from Christian liturgy, forming part of the Order of Mass. In Western Christianity, the Sanctus is sung as the final words of the Preface of the Eucharistic Prayer, the prayer of consecration of the bread and wine...

, the "commemoration" of Jesus Christ, the Pater noster
Lord's Prayer
The Lord's Prayer is a central prayer in Christianity. In the New Testament of the Christian Bible, it appears in two forms: in the Gospel of Matthew as part of the discourse on ostentation in the Sermon on the Mount, and in the Gospel of Luke, which records Jesus being approached by "one of his...

, and to different acclamation
Acclamation
An acclamation, in its most common sense, is a form of election that does not use a ballot. "Acclamation" or "acclamatio" can also signify a kind of ritual greeting and expression of approval in certain social contexts in ancient Rome.-Voting:...

s. These elements are found in all apostolic and early Christian liturgies.

Tertullian speaks often of the kiss of peace
Holy kiss
The kiss of peace is a traditional Christian greeting dating to early Christianity.The practice still remains a part of the worship in traditional churches, including the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Catholic Churches, Eastern Orthodox churches, Oriental Orthodox churches and some liturgical...

, and considers the ceremony very important. References are also made to a litany which was recited during the Mass, but no precise information is given concerning its place in the liturgy.

At Mass the faithful received holy communion under the species of bread from the bishop or priest, and under the species wine from the deacon holding the chalice
Chalice (cup)
A chalice is a goblet or footed cup intended to hold a drink. In general religious terms, it is intended for drinking during a ceremony.-Christian:...

, and each one, after receiving communion, answered "Amen" to profess his faith in the sacrament (Real Presence
Real Presence
Real Presence is a term used in various Christian traditions to express belief that in the Eucharist, Jesus Christ is really present in what was previously just bread and wine, and not merely present in symbol, a figure of speech , or by his power .Not all Christian traditions accept this dogma...

). Sometimes the faithful carried the Host home, and there communicated themselves, especially in times of persecution by the Roman Emperors. Home communion, also kept at home by those ordained deacons and acolythes in later times, was forbidden as an abuse after persecutions ceased.

Communion
Communion (Christian)
The term communion is derived from Latin communio . The corresponding term in Greek is κοινωνία, which is often translated as "fellowship". In Christianity, the basic meaning of the term communion is an especially close relationship of Christians, as individuals or as a Church, with God and with...

 seems to have been received while fasting, as Tertullian implies when he inquires what a pagan husband will think of the food of which his Christian wife partakes before any other food. The early Christians appear to have communicated frequently, even every day, especially during a period of persecution. The greatest reverence was shown to the consecrated eucharistic bread and consecrated wine, so the faithful strove to be free from all stain of grievous sin and deemed it a sacrilege
Sacrilege
Sacrilege is the violation or injurious treatment of a sacred object. In a less proper sense, any transgression against the virtue of religion would be a sacrilege. It can come in the form of irreverence to sacred persons, places, and things...

 to allow any of the consecrated elements to fall to the ground or be touched by other profane materials.

Baptism


Baptism
Baptism
In Christianity, baptism is for the majority the rite of admission , almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally and also membership of a particular church tradition...

, as the initiatory rite of Christianity, is mentioned frequently by the early writers; Tertullian wrote a special treatise on this sacrament, describing the preparation required for it, and the ceremonies accompanying it- "The catechumens should prepare for the reception of baptism by frequent prayers, by fasts, and vigils." Although he usually speaks of the baptism of adults, he admits the baptism of infants but seems somewhat opposed to the practice, which was commended by St. Cyprian
Cyprian
Cyprian was bishop of Carthage and an important Early Christian writer, many of whose Latin works are extant. He was born around the beginning of the 3rd century in North Africa, perhaps at Carthage, where he received a classical education...

, the latter holding baptism of children to be essential for their eternal salvation.

Easter, or any day between Easter and Pentecost
Pentecost
Pentecost is a prominent feast in the calendar of Ancient Israel celebrating the giving of the Law on Sinai, and also later in the Christian liturgical year commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of Christ after the Resurrection of Jesus...

, was the time set for the solemn administration of baptism, but Tertullian declares that as every day belongs to the Lord it might be conferred at any time. He holds that it should be administered by the bishop, who, however, may delegate a priest or deacon to act in his place, although in certain cases he would permit laymen to baptize.

Any kind of water may serve as the matter of the sacrament, and the water is used to baptize the catechumen "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost". The mode of baptizing was by triple immersion in a large font
Baptismal font
A baptismal font is an article of church furniture or a fixture used for the baptism of children and adults.-Aspersion and affusion fonts:...

, which had already been blessed by a minister.

Many symbolic ceremonies accompanied the rite of baptism. Before the baptismal candidate entered the font, he renounced the devil and his angels. There was also a creed
Creed
A creed is a statement of belief—usually a statement of faith that describes the beliefs shared by a religious community—and is often recited as part of a religious service. When the statement of faith is longer and polemical, as well as didactic, it is not called a creed but a Confession of faith...

 to be recited by the candidate for baptism, probably an African form of the Apostles' Creed
Apostles' Creed
The Apostles' Creed , sometimes titled Symbol of the Apostles, is an early statement of Christian belief, a creed or "symbol"...

 or an enriched version of the latter.

Tertullian gives several different forms of this rule of faith. After the neophyte ascended from the font he received a drink of milk and honey, and was then anointed with consecrated oil
Oil of catechumens
Oil of the Catechumens is the oil used in some traditional Christian churches during baptism; it is believed to strengthen the one being baptized to turn away from evil, temptation and sin....

. Tertullian also states that the neophyte was signed with the sign of the cross, that he received the imposition of hands with the invocation of the Holy Ghost. This is a clear description of the sacrament now called confirmation or chrismation
Chrismation
Chrismation is the name given in Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches, as well as in the Assyrian Church of the East, Anglican, and in Lutheran initiation rites, to the Sacrament or Sacred Mystery more commonly known in the West as confirmation, although Italian...

. According to Tertuallian's testimony, the newly baptized Christian would then immediately receive his first holy communion
First Communion
The First Communion, or First Holy Communion, is a Catholic Church ceremony. It is the colloquial name for a person's first reception of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. Catholics believe this event to be very important, as the Eucharist is one of the central focuses of the Catholic Church...

 during the eucharistic liturgy.

Tertullian explains many of these ceremonies in his Treatise On the Resurrection (viii): "The flesh indeed is washed in order that the soul may be cleansed; the flesh is anointed, that the soul may be consecrated; the flesh is signed (with the sign of the cross) that the soul too may be fortified; the flesh is shadowed with the imposition of hands, that the soul also may be illuminated by the Spirit; the flesh feeds on the Body and Blood of Christ, that the soul likewise may fatten on its God."

Penance


The testimonies relating to the Sacrament of Penance describe the public penances imposed for grievous sins, and the absolution
Absolution
Absolution is a traditional theological term for the forgiveness experienced in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This concept is found in the Roman Catholic Church, as well as the Eastern Orthodox churches, the Anglican churches, and most Lutheran churches....

 of the penitents after the public penances had been completed to the satisfaction of the Church.

Tertullian at first asserted that the Church had the power of forgiving all kinds of sins, but after becoming a Montanist he denied that this power extended to certain heinous crimes. Later, he ridiculed the practice of the Pope and the Roman Church, who did not deny absolution to any truly penitent Christian.

Though he writes sarcastically of the procedure in use in Rome in the time of Pope St. Callixtus, also describes seriously the manner in which a penitent sinner was absolved and readmitted into communion with the faithful. He narrates how the penitent, "clothed in a hair-shirt and covered with ashes, appears before the assembly of the faithful craving absolution, how he prostrates himself before the priests and widows, seizes the hem of their garments, kisses their footprints, clasps them by the knees", how the bishop in the meantime, addresses the people, exhorting them by the recital of the parable of the lost sheep to be merciful and show pity to the poor penitent who asks for pardon. The bishop prayed for the penitents, and the bishop and priests imposed hands upon them as a sign of absolution and restoration into the communion of the Church.

Elsewhere in his writings, Tertullian mentions doing penance in sack-cloth and ashes, of weeping for sins, and of asking the forgiveness of the faithful. St. Cyprian also writes of the different acts of penance, of the confession of sin, of the manner in which the public penance was performed, of the absolution given by the priest, and of the imposition of the hands of the bishop and priests through which the penitents regained their rights in the Church.

Marriage


Tertullian speaks of the nuptial blessing pronounced by the Church on the marriage
Marriage
Marriage is a social union or legal contract between people that creates kinship. It is an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually intimate and sexual, are acknowledged in a variety of ways, depending on the culture or subculture in which it is found...

 of Christians, asking "how he could sufficiently extol the happiness of that marriage which is cemented by the Church, confirmed by the oblation, sealed with the benediction [blessing], which the angels proclaim, which is ratified by the Heavenly Father". Christian marriage thus seems to have been celebrated publicly before the Church with more or less solemnity (including the offering of a special mass
Mass (liturgy)
"Mass" is one of the names by which the sacrament of the Eucharist is called in the Roman Catholic Church: others are "Eucharist", the "Lord's Supper", the "Breaking of Bread", the "Eucharistic assembly ", the "memorial of the Lord's Passion and Resurrection", the "Holy Sacrifice", the "Holy and...

: "confirmed by the Oblation"), but the nuptial blessing would appear to have been optional and not obligatory, except perhaps by force of custom.

Ordination


Both Tertullian and St. Cyprian mention ordination
Ordination
In general religious use, ordination is the process by which individuals are consecrated, that is, set apart as clergy to perform various religious rites and ceremonies. The process and ceremonies of ordination itself varies by religion and denomination. One who is in preparation for, or who is...

 and the various holy orders
Holy Orders
The term Holy Orders is used by many Christian churches to refer to ordination or to those individuals ordained for a special role or ministry....

 in the ecclesiastical hierarchy
Hierarchy
A hierarchy is an arrangement of items in which the items are represented as being "above," "below," or "at the same level as" one another...

, but unfortunately do not give much information which is strictly liturgical. Tertullian speaks of bishop
Bishop
A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

s, priest
Priest
A priest is a person authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particular, rites of sacrifice to, and propitiation of, a deity or deities...

s, and deacon
Deacon
Deacon is a ministry in the Christian Church that is generally associated with service of some kind, but which varies among theological and denominational traditions...

s whose powers and functions are pretty well defined, who are chosen on account of their exemplary conduct by the brethren, and are then consecrated to God by regular ordination. Only those who are ordained, says St. Cyprian, may baptize and grant pardon of sins. St. Cyprian distinguishes the different orders, mentioning bishops, priests, deacons, sub-deacons, acolyte
Acolyte
In many Christian denominations, an acolyte is anyone who performs ceremonial duties such as lighting altar candles. In other Christian Churches, the term is more specifically used for one who wishes to attain clergyhood.-Etymology:...

s, exorcist
Exorcist
In some religions an exorcist is a person who is believed to be able to cast out the devil or other demons. A priest, a nun, a monk, a healer, a shaman or other specially prepared or instructed person can be an exorcist...

s, and lector
Lector
Lector is a Latin term for one who reads, whether aloud or not. In modern languages the word has come to take various forms, as either a development or a loan, such as , , and . It has various specialized uses:...

s, and in describing the election of Pope St. Cornelius
Pope Cornelius
Pope Saint Cornelius was pope from his election on 6 or 13 March 251 to his martyrdom in June 253.- Christian persecution :Emperor Decius, who ruled from 249 to 251 AD, persecuted Christians in the Roman Empire rather sporadically and locally, but starting January in the year 250, he ordered all...

 at Rome declares that Cornelius was promoted from one order to another until finally he was elected by the votes of all to the supreme pontificate (bishop of Rome). All the orders except the minor order of ostiary are enumerated by the early African writers. Both exorcists and lectors appear to have occupied a much more important liturgical position in the early ages in both African and Roman churches than in later times in the Roman Church. The exorcist, for example, was frequently called upon to exercise the power against the devil
Devil
The Devil is believed in many religions and cultures to be a powerful, supernatural entity that is the personification of evil and the enemy of God and humankind. The nature of the role varies greatly...

 he had received at ordination. Tertullian speaks of this extraordinary power which was exercised in the name of Christ. Sometimes the exorcist used the rite of exsufflation
Exsufflation
Exsufflation is a strongly forced expiration of air from the lungs. Airway secretions can be cleared with manual and mechanical exsufflation. Mechanical insufflation-exsufflation devices alternate positive and negative airway pressure to stimulate cough...

, and sometimes, as St. Cyprian states, adjured the evil spirit to depart per Deum verum (by the true God). Lectors also had many liturgical functions to perform. The lector, for example, recited the lessons from the Old and New Testaments, and possibly even read (parts of) the Gospel
Gospel
A gospel is an account, often written, that describes the life of Jesus of Nazareth. In a more general sense the term "gospel" may refer to the good news message of the New Testament. It is primarily used in reference to the four canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John...

 from the pulpit
Pulpit
Pulpit is a speakers' stand in a church. In many Christian churches, there are two speakers' stands at the front of the church. Typically, the one on the left is called the pulpit...

 to the people. In later ages his duties were divided, and some were given to the other ministers, some to regular chanters.

Burial


Among other liturgical ceremonies the early writers often allude to the rites accompanying the burial
Burial
Burial is the act of placing a person or object into the ground. This is accomplished by excavating a pit or trench, placing an object in it, and covering it over.-History:...

 of the dead, and particularly the entombment of the bodies of the martyrs and confessors. From the earliest times the Christians showed great reverence to the bodies of the faithful, embalmed them with incense
Incense
Incense is composed of aromatic biotic materials, which release fragrant smoke when burned. The term "incense" refers to the substance itself, rather than to the odor that it produces. It is used in religious ceremonies, ritual purification, aromatherapy, meditation, for creating a mood, and for...

 and spices, and buried them carefully in distinctively Christian cemeteries. Prayers were said for the repose of the souls of the dead, Masses were offered especially on the anniversary of death and their names were recited in the Memento of the Mass (to alleviate possible temporal punishments these souls still possibly endured), provided that they had lived in accordance with Christian ideals. The faithful were taught not to mourn for their dead, but to rejoice that the souls of those departed in Faith and grace, were already living with God and enjoying peace and refreshing happiness after their earthly trials and labours. Tertullian, St. Cyprian, and the Acts of St. Perpetua, all give testimony to the antiquity of these customs. The cemeteries in Africa (called areae) were not catacombs like those in Rome, but above ground in the open air, and often had a chapel (cella) adjoining them, where the (sometimes secret) reunions of the faithful took place on the anniversaries of the martyrs and of the other Christians who were buried there. The inscriptions on the tombs often state that the departed had lived a life of Christian peace, in pace vixit, or often express their faith and hope of the faithful in a future life of happiness together with the Lord--spes in Deo--in Deo vivas.

St. Augustine in the 4th century also insists, that the normally passed away Christian faithful should be prayed for during the Eucharist's Memento "at our altars", but forbade to pray for the martyrs - these heroes were believed to be immediately with God after their deaths. A belief in purgatory
Purgatory
Purgatory is the condition or process of purification or temporary punishment in which, it is believed, the souls of those who die in a state of grace are made ready for Heaven...

 is thereby indirectly established, even if this point of faith was not yet called that way and was rather universally held than episcopally imposed.

Ceremonial acts


Finally, some ceremonial acts might be considered to which reference is often made by the early writers. Prayers were said sometimes kneeling, sometimes standing; for example, on Sundays, and during the fifty days following Easter, it was forbidden to kneel, while on fast days the kneeling posture was considered appropriate. The Christians prayed with the arms stretched out somewhat in the form of a cross. The sign of the cross was made very frequently, often on some object with the intention of blessing it, often on the forehead of Christians to invoke God's protection and assistance. Tertullian in his "De Corona" writes: "At every forward step and movement, at every going in and out, when we put on our clothes and shoes, when we bathe, when we sit at table, when we light the lamps, on couch, on seat, in all ordinary actions of daily life, we trace upon the forehead the sign of the cross". The early Christians were also accustomed to strike their breasts in sign of guilt and contrition for sin. Tertullian believed that the kiss of peace should be given often; in fact, that it should accompany every prayer and ceremony. Not only are there many ceremonial acts such as those just mentioned which existed in the 3rd century and have been preserved even to the present in the liturgy, but there are also many phrases and acclamations of the early African Church which have found a permanent place in the liturgical formularies. These expressions, and perhaps also the measured style in which they were composed, may have had considerable influence in the development of the other Latin liturgies.

Post-Nicene period


After Constantine I
Constantine I
Constantine the Great , also known as Constantine I or Saint Constantine, was Roman Emperor from 306 to 337. Well known for being the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity, Constantine and co-Emperor Licinius issued the Edict of Milan in 313, which proclaimed religious tolerance of all...

's Edict of Milan
Edict of Milan
The Edict of Milan was a letter signed by emperors Constantine I and Licinius that proclaimed religious toleration in the Roman Empire...

, granting freedom of worship
Freedom of religion
Freedom of religion is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or community, in public or private, to manifest religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance; the concept is generally recognized also to include the freedom to change religion or not to follow any...

 to the Christian religion, and especially after the Council of Nicaea
First Council of Nicaea
The First Council of Nicaea was a council of Christian bishops convened in Nicaea in Bithynia by the Roman Emperor Constantine I in AD 325...

, there was a great development in the liturgy of the Church. It was only natural that for some time after the foundation of the new religion, its liturgy should contain only the essentials of Christian worship, and that in the course of time it should develop and expand its ritual according to the needs of the people. Moreover, the first period was an age of persecution and hence the ceremonial was necessarily curtailed. While gold, silver, incense and precious clothes for the ministers had their origins in the earliest time of the Church, they became increasingly more expensive, like the churches and chapels became large edifices instead of home or graveyard oratories. So when persecution ceased, the Church began immediately to expand her ceremony, changing and modifying the old forms and introducing new rites according to the requirements of public liturgical worship, so that the liturgy would be more dignified, more magnificent, and more impressive. In the beginning great liberty was allowed the individual celebrant
Celebrant
Celebrant may refer to:* Celebrant or Officiant, the leader of a liturgy or ceremony who is empowered to perform it** In the Catholic and Anglican churches, the celebrant is the person who celebrates a sacrament, e.g., the priest who celebrates the Eucharist or the bishop who ordains a priest*...

 to improvise the prayers of the liturgy, provided that he adhered to the strict form in essentials and followed the theme demanded, but at a later date, the Church felt the need of a set of formularies and fixed ceremonies, lest dogma
Dogma
Dogma is the established belief or doctrine held by a religion, or a particular group or organization. It is authoritative and not to be disputed, doubted, or diverged from, by the practitioners or believers...

tic errors should find expression in the liturgy and thus corrupt the faith of the people.
In the 4th century all these tendencies to expansion and development are very noticeable in all the liturgies. This is true, also, of the Church in what is now called North Africa in the second period of the history of the African liturgy which embraces the fourth, fifth, sixth, and 7th centuries to the beginning of the 8th century, when Christianity in (North) Africa was practically destroyed by the Muslims and their aggression. No liturgical books or codices belonging to this period are extant, so the liturgy must be reconstructed from contemporary writings and monuments. Of the writers of the period St. Augustine, bishop of Hippo
Augustine of Hippo
Augustine of Hippo , also known as Augustine, St. Augustine, St. Austin, St. Augoustinos, Blessed Augustine, or St. Augustine the Blessed, was Bishop of Hippo Regius . He was a Latin-speaking philosopher and theologian who lived in the Roman Africa Province...

 (354-430) is richest in allusions to ceremonies and formularies, but St. Optatus, Marius Victorinus, Arnobius
Arnobius
Arnobius of Sicca was an Early Christian apologist, during the reign of Diocletian . According to Jerome's Chronicle, Arnobius, before his conversion, was a distinguished Numidian rhetorician at Sicca Veneria , a major Christian center in Proconsular Africa, and owed his conversion to a...

, and Victor Vitensis
Victor Vitensis
Victor Vitensis was an African bishop of the Province of Byzacena . His importance rests on his Historia persecutionis Africanae Provinciae, temporibus Geiserici et Hunirici regum Wandalorum...

 give some useful information. The inscriptions, which are more numerous in this period, and the archaeological discoveries also furnish some liturgical data.

The beginning of a real ecclesiastical calendar, with definitely fixed feasts and fasts, now appears. The great feast of Easter, upon which all the movable feasts depended, is celebrated with even greater solemnity than in the time of Tertullian. Before Easter there was a period of forty days' preparation, devoted to fasting and other works of penance. The vigil of Easter was celebrated with the usual ritual, but the length of the offices seems to have been increased. The Paschal solemnity was followed by a season of fifty days' rejoicing until Pentecost day, which, in the 4th century, appears to have a distinctive character as the commemoration of the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles rather than as the close of the Easter season. In Holy Week
Holy Week
Holy Week in Christianity is the last week of Lent and the week before Easter...

, Holy Thursday commemorated the institution of the Eucharist, and according to St. Augustine, besides the morning Mass, a Mass was also celebrated in the evening in order to carry out all the circumstances of the institution at the Last Supper. Good Friday
Good Friday
Good Friday , is a religious holiday observed primarily by Christians commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death at Calvary. The holiday is observed during Holy Week as part of the Paschal Triduum on the Friday preceding Easter Sunday, and may coincide with the Jewish observance of...

 was observed by attending the long liturgical offices, while Holy Saturday was celebrated in about the same manner as in the time of Tertullian. Ascension Day seems to have been introduced in the 4th century (though possibly earlier in churches elsewhere), but in the time of St. Augustine it was already universally observed. As for the immovable feasts, Christmas
Christmas
Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...

 and Epiphany
Epiphany (Christian)
Epiphany, or Theophany, meaning "vision of God",...

, which were unknown or seemed unimportant to Tertullian, were celebrated already with the greatest solemnity in the early 5th century. The first of January was observed not as the feast of the Circumcision, but as a fast day which had been instituted for the purpose of turning the people away from the celebration of the pagan festivities which still took place at that time of the year by the still numerous pagans of the Roman Empire. (Only after 389 AD would the pagan 1 January festivals cease.) Feasts of other than local saints were introduced, for instance, immediately after Christmas, the feast of St. Stephen the Proto-Martyr
Saint Stephen
Saint Stephen The Protomartyr , the protomartyr of Christianity, is venerated as a saint in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox Churches....

, of the Holy Innocents of Bethlehem
Bethlehem
Bethlehem is a Palestinian city in the central West Bank of the Jordan River, near Israel and approximately south of Jerusalem, with a population of about 30,000 people. It is the capital of the Bethlehem Governorate of the Palestinian National Authority and a hub of Palestinian culture and tourism...

 and of Sts. John
John the Evangelist
Saint John the Evangelist is the conventional name for the author of the Gospel of John...

 and James, and later in the year, the feasts of St. John the Baptist, of Sts. Peter and Paul, of the holy Maccabees
Maccabees
The Maccabees were a Jewish rebel army who took control of Judea, which had been a client state of the Seleucid Empire. They founded the Hasmonean dynasty, which ruled from 164 BCE to 63 BCE, reasserting the Jewish religion, expanding the boundaries of the Land of Israel and reducing the influence...

, of St. Lawrence, St. Vincent
Vincent of Saragossa
Saint Vincent of Saragossa, also known as Vincent Martyr, Vincent of Huesca or Vincent the Deacon, is the patron saint of Lisbon. His feast day is 22 January in the Roman Catholic Church and Anglican Communion and 11 November in the Eastern Orthodox Churches...

, etc. The festivals of the local martyrs were celebrated with even greater solemnity than in early times, and were often accompanied by luxurious secular feasting after the church services (drinking, singing and eating) which was frequently condemned in some sermons of the time, on account of abuses. When such a large number of feasts was annually observed, it was to be expected that a list or calendar would be drawn up, and, in truth, a calendar was drawn up for the use of the Church of Carthage
Carthage
Carthage , implying it was a 'new Tyre') is a major urban centre that has existed for nearly 3,000 years on the Gulf of Tunis, developing from a Phoenician colony of the 1st millennium BC...

 in the beginning of the 6th century, from which very important information concerning the institution and history of the great feast days may be obtained.

When Christianity received legal recognition in the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 (313-389 AD), the Christians began to construct churches and adorn them to serve their purpose. Most of these were built in the old basilica style, with some few differences. The churches were dedicated in honour of the holy martyrs frequently, and relics of the martyrs were placed beneath the altars. The inscriptions of the period mention the dedication to the martyrs and also the fact that the relics were placed in the church or in the altar. The altar itself, called mensa (table), was generally made of wood, but sometimes of stone, and was covered over with linen cloths. There was a special rite for dedicating churches and also for consecrating altars, in which blessed water and the sign of the cross were used. The blessing and consecrating took place by the bishop
Bishop
A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

.

The Mass became a daily function celebrated every morning when the Christians could meet frequently without fear of persecution, and when the increased number of feasts required a more frequent celebration of the liturgical offices. Little is known with precision and certitude of the composition of the different parts of the African post-Nicene Mass, but still there are many allusions in various authors which give some valuable information. The Mass of the catechumens consisted of psalms
Psalms
The Book of Psalms , commonly referred to simply as Psalms, is a book of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Bible...

 and lessons from the Scriptures. These lessons were chosen from both the Old and New Testaments, and it would seem that there were three lessons as in some of the Oriental liturgies, one from the Old Testament, one from the Epistles in the New Testament, and one from the Gospels. The Third Council of Carthage decreed that only lessons from the canonical books of Scripture or from the acts of the martyrs on their feast days might be read in the churches. Between the Epistle
Epistle
An epistle is a writing directed or sent to a person or group of people, usually an elegant and formal didactic letter. The epistle genre of letter-writing was common in ancient Egypt as part of the scribal-school writing curriculum. The letters in the New Testament from Apostles to Christians...

 and Gospel
Gospel
A gospel is an account, often written, that describes the life of Jesus of Nazareth. In a more general sense the term "gospel" may refer to the good news message of the New Testament. It is primarily used in reference to the four canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John...

 a psalm containing some idea in harmony with the feast of the day was recited, and corresponded to the gradual
Gradual
The Gradual is a chant or hymn in the liturgical celebration of the Eucharist for many Christian denominations. In the Tridentine Mass it was and is sung after the reading or chanting of the Epistle and before the Alleluia, or, during penitential seasons, before the Tract. In the Mass of Paul VI...

 or tract
Tract (liturgy)
The tract is part of the proper of the liturgical celebration of the Eucharist for many Christian denominations, which is used instead of the Alleluia during Lenten or pre-Lenten seasons, in a Requiem Mass, and on a few other penitential occasions, when the joyousness of an Alleluia is deemed...

 in the Roman Mass. An alleluia
Alleluia
The word "Alleluia" or "Hallelujah" , which at its most literal means "Praise Yah", is used in different ways in Christian liturgies....

 was also sung, more or less solemnly, especially on Sundays and during the fifty days' prolongation of the Easter festival. The lessons from the Scriptures were generally followed by a homily, after which both the catechumens and the penitents were dismissed, and the Mass of the faithful commenced. This rule of dismissing the catechumens, etc., seems to have been strictly observed, since nearly all the Northwest African writers in their sermons or other works use expressions which indicate that their words would be intelligible only to the initiated, and that the catechumens were ignorant of the mysteries celebrated in the Mass of the faithful. The litany
Litany
A litany, in Christian worship and some forms of Jewish worship, is a form of prayer used in services and processions, and consisting of a number of petitions...

 may have been recited after the Gospel, although its precise position cannot be determined with certainty. The litany consisted of short petitions for the various needs of the Church, resembling somewhat the petitions in the present Roman Rite Litany of the Saints
Litany of the Saints
The Litany of the Saints is a sacred prayer of the Roman Catholic Church, the Western Rites of the Orthodox Church, and some Anglican Churches. It is a prayer of invocation to the Triune God, and prayers for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Angels and all the martyrs and saints...

, or perhaps the prayers for different classes of persons, or necessities of the Church which are now recited on Good Friday. The people probably responded with an acclamation like Kyrie eleison, or - more logically - Te rogamus audi nos.

In the time of St. Augustine a chant for the Offertory
Offertory
The Offertory is the portion of a Eucharistic service when bread and wine are brought to the altar. The offertory exists in many liturgical Christian denominations, though the Eucharistic theology varies among celebrations conducted by these denominations....

 was introduced in the Church of Carthage; it consisted of a psalm having some reference to the oblation
Oblation
Oblation, an offering , a term, particularly in ecclesiastical usage, for a solemn offering or presentation to God.-Bible usage:...

, and was sung while the people were making their offerings to the Church/liturgy (money, goods). Each of the faithful was supposed to bring an offering for his or her holy communion. The offerings, pure wheat bread and wine, were received by the bishop and placed upon the altar, with the appropriate prayers, and then the bishop proceeded with the Mass. Other offerings were put down before the sacred space around the altar, not inside it. The Latin-spoken Dominus vobiscum
Dominus Vobiscum
Dominus vobiscum, a Latin phrase meaning "The Lord be with you", is an ancient salutation and blessing traditionally used by the clergy in the Roman Catholic Mass, as well as in the liturgies of other Western Christian denominations.-Usage:...

 preceded the Preface. The canon of the Mass
Canon of the Mass
Canon of the Mass is the name given in the Roman Missal, from the first typical edition of Pope Pius V in 1570 to that of Pope John XXIII in 1962, to the part of the Mass of the Roman Rite that begins after the Sanctus with the words Te igitur...

 was known in Africa as the actio, or agenda, and was mentioned but very seldom on account of the "discipline of the secret". There are, however, some passages in the African writers which show that there was a great similarity between the African actio and the Roman Eucharistic Canon
Canon of the Mass
Canon of the Mass is the name given in the Roman Missal, from the first typical edition of Pope Pius V in 1570 to that of Pope John XXIII in 1962, to the part of the Mass of the Roman Rite that begins after the Sanctus with the words Te igitur...

, so much so that some of the texts when put in juxtaposition are almost identical. The actio contained the usual prayers, the commemoration for the living and the dead, the words of institution and sanctification of the sacrifice, the commemoration of Christ's life, the Pater Noster, and the preparation for Communion. The Pater Noster seems to have held the same position that it now has in the Roman canon, and it was said before the Communion, as St. Augustine states, because in the Lord's Prayer we beseech God to forgive our offences, and thus we may approach the communion table with better dispositions. The kiss of peace followed shortly after the Pater Noster, and was closely connected with the Communion, being regarded as a symbol of the fraternal union existing between all those who partook of the Body and Blood of Christ, being united through Him. The faithful received communion frequently, and were encouraged in the practice of receiving daily communion. At the proper time the communicants approached the altar and there partook of the Eucharist under both species, answering "Amen" to the formula pronounced by the priest in order to profess their faith in the sacrament just received. During the distribution of communion the thirty-third psalm
Psalm 33
-Judaism:*Is recited in its entirety during the Pesukei Dezimra on Shabbat, Yom Tov, and Hoshana Rabbah.*Is recited during Tashlikh.*Is recited on days of fasting Behab in some traditions.*Verse 1 is part of Shochein Ad....

 was recited or sung, because that psalm contained some verses considered appropriate for the Communion. Prayers of thanksgiving were then said, and the people dismissed from the church with a benediction
Benediction
A benediction is a short invocation for divine help, blessing and guidance, usually at the end of worship service.-Judaism:...

 (presbyteral or episcopal blessing in the form of the cross).

The prayers accompanying the administration of the other sacraments seem to have become more fixed and to have lengthened since the time of Tertullian. For the more decorous and convenient administration of the Sacrament of Baptism, large adorned baptisteries were erected, in which the ceremony was carried out with great solemnity. The African Church seems to have followed practically the same ritual as the Roman Church during the catechumenate, which lasted for the forty days preceding Easter. St. Augustine, for instance, speaks of teaching the catechumens the Apostles' Creed and the Lord's Prayer (Our Father), and of the rites for the Vigil of Easter, as if they were in accord with those in use at Rome; but there appears to be only one unction with sacred oil, that after baptism, and the kiss of peace after baptism is still given as in the days of St. Cyprian. Victor Vitensis
Victor Vitensis
Victor Vitensis was an African bishop of the Province of Byzacena . His importance rests on his Historia persecutionis Africanae Provinciae, temporibus Geiserici et Hunirici regum Wandalorum...

 asserts that the African Church admitted the feast of the Epiphany as a day appointed for the solemn administration of baptism according to the custom prevailing in the Oriental churches. The neophytes were confirmed after baptism through the imposition of hands and the unction with chrism on the forehead in the form of a cross, and on the same day they seem to have received their first holy communion with about the same ceremonies as in the ante-Nicene period of persecutions. The rite for the Sacrament of Penance shows few peculiarities in Africa; public penances were imposed and the reconciliation of penitents was effected in the same manner as in the age of Tertullian. (By personal, often public, confession and absolution by the bishop, incidentally by the priest, after a long time of penitential fasting.)

Matrimony is often mentioned, especially by St. Augustine, who speaks of the nuptial blessing and the various other ceremonies, civil and religious, connected with it.

As the Sacrament of Holy Orders had a more public character like the Eucharist, it is frequently alluded to in the writings and inscriptions of the post-Nicene time. Allusions are made to the various orders and to ordination, but there is scarcely ever a description of the rite of ordination, or an explanation of the formulas. It might be noted that the archdeacon
Archdeacon
An archdeacon is a senior clergy position in Anglicanism, Syrian Malabar Nasrani, Chaldean Catholic, and some other Christian denominations, above that of most clergy and below a bishop. In the High Middle Ages it was the most senior diocesan position below a bishop in the Roman Catholic Church...

 now appears and has special functions assigned to him. Clerics began their ecclesiastical career as lectors often at a tender (very young) age, and the lectors formed a schola (school of cantors), which sang the ecclesiastical offices in Latin chant. Later on, the lectors became chanters, and their duties were given to the other ministers. St. Augustine also speaks frequently of the ceremony of the consecration of virgins, which seems to have been reserved to the bishops. The veil might be received by female faithful at a much younger age in Africa than at Rome.

The faithful showed the same loving care and respect to the bodies of the departed as in the ante-Nicene period, but now the funeral rites were longer and more solemn. Prayers were said for the dead as before, Mass was also offered for the souls of the faithful departed, and special rites took place while the funeral procession was on the way and when the body was entombed. The names of the dead were recited in the diptychs, and special proto-Requiem
Requiem
A Requiem or Requiem Mass, also known as Mass for the dead or Mass of the dead , is a Mass celebrated for the repose of the soul or souls of one or more deceased persons, using a particular form of the Roman Missal...

 Mass was offered for them on the anniversaries of death. Moreover, the inscriptions of this age contain beautiful sentiments of hope in a happy future life for those who had lived and died in the peace of the Lord, and beseech God to grant eternal rest and beatitude to those who trust in His mercy. Many of these expressions are very similar to the phrases now used in the Roman Rite
Roman Rite
The Roman Rite is the liturgical rite used in the Diocese of Rome in the Catholic Church. It is by far the most widespread of the Latin liturgical rites used within the Western or Latin autonomous particular Church, the particular Church that itself is also called the Latin Rite, and that is one of...

 during the obsequies of the dead.

The Divine Office was gradually developing, but was still in a very rudimentary state. It consisted of the recitation or chanting of psalms and canticles, of versicles and acclamations, and the reading of portions of the Scriptures. There was a special collection of canticles taken from the Old Testament in use in the African Church, and perhaps, also, a collection of hymns of St. Ambrose. Many of the versicles quoted in the writings of the time may be now found in the present Roman liturgy. St. Augustine was evidently opposed to the growing tendency to abandon the simple recitative tone and make the chant of the offices more solemn, complex and ornate as the ceremonial became more formal. Gradually the formularies became more fixed, and liberty to improvise was curtailed by the African councils. Few, however, of the prayers have been preserved, although many shorter verses and acclamations have been quoted in the writings of the period, as for example, the Deo Gratias, Deo Laudes, and Amen, with which the people approved the words of the preacher, or the doxologies and conclusions of some of the prayers. The people still used the sign of the cross
Sign of the cross
The Sign of the Cross , or crossing oneself, is a ritual hand motion made by members of many branches of Christianity, often accompanied by spoken or mental recitation of a trinitarian formula....

 frequently in their private devotions as in the more difficult days of Tertullian (when the Christians were still under persecution). Other ceremonial acts in common use were striking the breast as a sign of penance, extending the arms in the form of a cross (especially clerics during the liturgy did so), kneeling during prayers, etc., all of which had been handed down from primitive times. Such are some of the most important data furnished by the early writers and inscriptions concerning the liturgy of the African Church, and they are useful to show the peculiarities of the Latin rite in Africa (now: North Africa
North Africa
North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...

, except originically Alexandrian Rite Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

) as well as the similarity between the African and other liturgies.